Sunday 29 August 2010

Autumn - new British zombie movie

Just watched a DVD of the British zombie horror film Autumn, starring Dexter Fletcher and guest starring David Carradine.

This is a very gritty, slow-moving but, in many respects, more realistic development of the zombie trope. For the most part it only has a small cast of characters, and they behave in the kind of way in which I imagine most of us would react to that kind of catastrophic situation. I also like how the reanimated dead gradually become more motivated, more able to act, more violent and dangerous as their bodies decay. Like most zombie movies there isn't much of a glimmer of hope in it - just a bit, I suppose. The merest bit. And even that's a bit ambiguous. But what would you expect in a world reduced to a handful of the living and billions of the reanimated dead?

Anyway, that was my Sunday morning movie of the week. 

Thursday 26 August 2010

The Dead of Night - Oliver Onions

I got this latest collection of ghost stories from Wordsworth Books yesterday - and what an amazing bargain it is. Just over 600 pages of stories by one of the greatest ghost-story writers ever for less than £3! (£2.99)

I really can't believe how Wordsworth can manage to produce books of this quality at such incredibly low prices.

I am really looking forward to delving into this book. The first story is the famous Beckoning Fair One.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

The Walking Dead

Going from this trailer, this new TV series looks good. I just hope that if it is as good as it looks that it runs its full length. Too many great series have been axed partway through their story arcs recently, which is really annoying.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

If Lovecraft Had Lived into the 1960s

I came across a fascinating thread on ChthulhuWho1's Blog in which downloads of a discussion on this subject was made in 1978 at the 36th World Science Fiction Convention in Phoenix. On the panel were Fritz Leiber Jnr, Professor Dirk W. Mosig, Professor Donald R. Burleson, J. Vernon Shea, and S.T. Joshi. I have never had the chance to hear the late Fritz Leiber before, and it is great that someone has been able to make decent recordings of this available online, especially when the subject under discussion was HPL.

These are links to the downloads:

One Two Three Four Five Six

What Do Zombies Represent

There's an interesting thread on the Ramsey Campbell Boards about a new zombie anthology that's coming out soon Zombie Apocalypse edited by Stephen Jones for Robinson Books (part of their mammoth series, I think). There is a basic premise upon which a number of writers, including John Probert and Mark Samuels, have written stories. In the thread about this book, Joel Lane puts forward the suggestion that zombies represent for some people "a hated and feared 'common herd'".

Going off most films I have seen this would seem to be correct. And, although I have not read many zombie novels, this would again seem true for them as well. Oddly, though, my own most recent zombie story - the first I have actually written as such - doesn't involve them en masse, but in a one to one basis. To me, it's a bit like the Alien movies. The first had the most tension and fear and only involved one creature. Aliens and its sequels, though good fun in different ways, were SF adventure films, in which there were far more aliens but the more there were the easier they seemed to kill and the less frightening they were individually. While undoubtedly the idea of a mob of zombies is a scary concept and something I'm sure none of us would like to see in real life, there is still much to be said for one person facing the threat of a solitary creature. What, then, does that represent? 

To be honest, I haven't a clue, other than a frightening concept. Which, before we go all allegorical, is what it must succeed at first before anything else. The rest is just icing on the cake. Slightly mouldy, blood-splattered icing at that. 

The zombie story I wrote is Romero's Children and will appear in The Seventh Black Book of Horror later this year.

Friday 20 August 2010

Leisure Books in Trouble

More bad news from the States where it looks like Leisure Books, who have published some really splendid horror novels over the past umpteen years, are in desperate trouble.

Check out this link to Brian Keene's website, where he discusses this.

More on the Small Presses and Wordsworth Books

There's been quite a bit more on this ongoing discussion on the Vault of Evil, and some good points are being raised on it.

This is from one of my own last entries in the debate:

Today at 6:13am, jamesdoig wrote:

I imagine choosing a title for publication must be the product of a careful business decision. Derek mentioned, and I hope I'm not misquoting, that in recent times some Wordsworth titles haven't sold so well. There must come a time when you've exhausted the choicest crop of quality authors and titles and you struggle to sell the 2nd or 3rd tier stuff. I imagine Lovecraft, M.R. James, Robert E. Howard, le Fanu, Dickens, Conan Doyle, Kipling do all right - they always have - but it must be difficult to sell 1000s of copies of Lettice Galbraith, R. Murray Gilchrist and Amyas Northcote, as desirable as they may be to aficionados and fans. Even the specialty presses struggle to flog 500 or even 200 copies of long-dead authors who on the face of it look worthwhile reprinting - a saturation point is easily reached.

And the digitisation of public domain material must make it tough to sell print copies of out-of-copyright material - many of the texts are freely available and the only value-add is a decent intro or critical apparatus. I know a few researchers/editors who are struggling to sell collections by interesting authors, or have sold them and seen them published, but haven't received a brass razoo.

Which is why I think there are grounds to believe that a company based on this model, but selling up and coming newer writers whose names can be promoted online and elsewhere, but offering otherwise very small financial returns for the author (who would otherwise never even get their collection published, certainly in large numbers, lets be honest) might have a chance.

On the plus side for the writer, besides getting published and a higher profile, they could very possibly, even on low royaltiy percentages, end up with more than they would through traditional small presses.

Going on from others' comments, including Craig, about slow sales returns, this would have to be taken into account of course. The money spent on any publication would have to be regarded as shelved for quite some time. The important issue is how much it would cost to put out a collection of 2 or 3 thousand copies (or whatever) of a particular writer, taking into consideration all the cost cutting that could be involved.

Obviously it would be important to choose writers whose work could be attractive to as wide a range of the buying public as possible, with quality work that is readable and interesting.

There are a lot of things to weigh up on this.

I am going to make some enquiries into printing costs. If anyone has some already or some useful contacts I'd appreciate it.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Moonlight - No Series 2

Now, I'm not a big fan of the newfangled vampires who twinkle and don't scare people or do evil things. Twilight can stay in the twilight for all I care. But I did get into Moonlight. I can't say why. Perhaps it was the main characters or the storylines. I know when one main character was abducted, then killed quite randomly, I was shocked - and  impressed. Whatever the reasons may be, I did enjoy this series and was looking forward to its return with a second. Unfortunately, this never happened. The show was cancelled. Which is a damn shame. There are few enough good programs on TV these days.

At least I can rewatch my DVDs of the first series.

Small Presses and Wordsworth Books

There's an interesting thread just started on the Vault of Evil. Although it began as a discussion about the latest issue of Prism, it very soon moved on to that marvellous publisher, Wordsworth, who have brought out some of the very best collections of single-author ghost stories at unbelievably cheap rates. They specialise, of course, in publishing writers who have been dead so long their works are now out of copyright. This naturally saves them any royalty payments. It also means that we, the reader, can read some brilliant stories only available elsewhere in very expensive limited editions from speciality publishers.

Mark Samuels tried to interest them in moving on to publishing a single-author collection by him, even though he offered it to them "dirt cheap". In his own words, though, he was shot down in flames. That's a great pity as I believe there are a number of outstandingly good modern writers in the genre who would be prepared to have collections of their stories published by someone like Wordsworth with very little expectation of much in return, just so long as their stories were made available at reasonable rates to a wider audience. After all, what do any of us make out of the very limited print runs offered by the small presses most of us are published by? Little, if anything is the answer of course.

It would be nice if someone like Wordsworth could be enticed into experimentng down these lines. I am not optimistic, though. And the limited print runs in the low hundreds (or less) at high prices will remain the only option available to most of us for short story collections.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Prism - September Issue Sent to the Printers

The next issue of Prism has been posted to the printers today, so it should be available for distribution to members by early September, well before FantasyCon.

One bit of good news is that the print run has gone up by 50 copies since the last issue, which shows that the BFS is doing okay at the moment. Let's hope its membership continues to climb. Of course, one important job to ensure that this happens isn't only by gaining new members but by ensuring that existing ones renew their membership. For that we need quality publications that continue to be published regularly, on time and without fail (which has happened all this year); that we keep up a steady presence online with an interesting and continually updated website (which is certainly happening); and by making sure that members don't fall by the wayside through neglect. We need to make sure that reminders - not one, but several - are sent out to members when their subscriptions need renewing. It's all too easy for people to forget to do these things.

I'm looking forward to this year's FantasyCon in Nottingham. It will be the first I've attended for several years.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

A Fascinating Interview with Jonathan Maberry

On Strange Horizons there's a really fascinating interview with horror author Jonathan Maberry, discussing zombie fiction.

Hellfire and Damnation by Connie Corcoran Wilson

A very nice, slim collection of short stories (114 pages) published by Sam's Dot Publishing in the States. I received a signed copy in the post from the author as a member of the HWA. It has a very complimentary introduction by William F. Nolan - which is quite something - and some good and lengthy comments on the back cover from the likes of Gary A. Braunbeck and Lisa Mannetti. And I must admit I'm not surprised. This is a very good book, excellently well written, which moves at a brisk pace and never bores. Some intriguing ideas in it too. Enjoyed it.

Monday 16 August 2010

Bloody Barbarity - Couple Stoned to Death

The Taliban showed its true face in Afghanistan when it arranged the stoning to death of a young couple in an area they controlled. Barbarities like this are an utter disgrace. If this is Sharia Law, it has no place anywhere in the world - least of all in the West, as some would have it.

Self Publishing and E-Books

There is quite a lively debate on the BFS Forum over the small press, self publishing, etc.

One excellent idea put forward was the suggestion that an ideal array of formats for a book to be brought out in the small presses would be a limited hardback edition for collectors (or keen fans of the writer) of 100-150 numbered copies, and a paperback version published via POD, which will therefore be available constantly at a reasonable price, topped off with a e-book version. Using the same cover artwork, etc., this would reduce the overall costs and at least make the book as fully available as possible.

The discussion has now gone on to the issue of distribution and sales - an important matter for anyone spending serious money. And there's no doubt but that this does demand serious work by anyone concerned, including the writer.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Prism - September 2010

The next issue of Prism is now ready to go off to the printers in time to be posted out to BFS members early September, before FantasyCon.

This is its cover: (by Bryan Talbot)

Self Publishing and E-Books - Further

There's been a recent debate on the Horror Writers Association boards about self publishing and POD - something that was anathema there until recently. How times are changing!

Anyway, this was my contribution to the debate:

"I have begun to believe that certainly with collections of short stories POD may be the only answer for most writers, since mainstream publishers have little interest in short story collections for anyone outside a small circle of big name writers. The only alternative till recently has been to go to small presses for these, but with so many unreliable small presses around, I wonder whether most writers would be better off turning to POD instead. At least then they have full control over what their collection looks like - and will certainly collect more royalties from its sale."

Friday 13 August 2010

Under the Dome

Just finished reading Stephen King's recent epic, Under the Dome. It's the first novel of his I've been able to finish for several years. I gave up on Cell after two tries, getting as far as 100 pages into it. Under the Dome, though, was a rollicking ride from beginning to end, with characters that really engaged me, the good, the bad and the changeable. It's a long book, but unlike Dream-Catcher, never for one page seemed to have been padded out. There's a lot of detail in it, and character backgrounds, but they all seem relevant to the story and create a rounded, filled-in novel that is epic in feel, even though it takes place over only a few days in a very small locality. King really excelled himself, in particular, with the darker characters - and with the quirkier ones. Indeed, one of the quirkiest, The Chef, is responsible for perhaps the worst act in the entire book, even though he doesn't do it out of malice strangely enough. A complex, fascinating book.

King often puts references in his book to characters or events in others he has written. In this, though, I noticed one character referred to (though he never appears in it) from the novels of Lee Child: the formidable Jack Reacher. (I love Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels and usually take one away with me each year as one of my main holiday reads.)

I won't say any more about this book, as I don't want to let slip any spoilers (all too easy!), except to add that this is King back on top form.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Self Publishing

There's an interesting discussion on Shocklines, with writers like Brian Keene participating, on the issue of self-publishing. Leisure Books, which have published most of Brian's books so far, is likely to turn to ebooks only in the near future. As a result Brian is looking towards self publishing. How many other writers of his ilk will do the same?

My own experience with the collection of my short stories that have been due for publication for several years is leading me to wonder whether I should go down this road too. At least all the stories in this collection have been professionally published before, either in anthologies or magazines. I'll give it a bit longer, but if there is still no serious indication that it will be published within the next twelve months, I can see no option but to look at doing a print run myself, then make it available as an ebook. This isn't something I would have even considered some time ago, but times are changing. And fast.

See also this on Brian Keene's website.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

The Last Coach Trip

Spent a little time last night doing a final rewrite (more tweaking than writing) on this story, which is another set in Edgebottom and concerns a cast of Northern workingclass characters - some based on people I used to rub shoulders with back in the days before I got married and I used to spend many a night in Bold Street Workingmens Club in Accrington. I have based the club in this story very much on that place and their annual coach trips to Ripon races. I never did go on their last one, though. I'd stopped going there long before that sad day happened.

Anyway, I'm quite pleased with this tale, though it is gentler than most I've written about that place. Not sure where I'll send it to yet. It's very much a British tale and probably wouldn't go down too well across the pond.

See also this on Brian Keene's website.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

My Kindle Books Now On Amazon UK

I have just found out that my Kindle books are now available on Amazon UK.

Sendings and The Worst of All Possible Places are priced at 75p each.

Goblin Mire is £3.01, but I have no control over the pricing for this.

I'm to be a Granddad

My daughter Cassandra and her husband Alan called round last night to give us the good news that they are to have a baby in February next year. They waited till they got their latest scan, verifying that everything was going fine, before telling anyone, just in case. Linden already suspected this several weeks ago, though. There's no fooling her!

This is going to be a busy time for Cassie, as she opens her new drama school, ReAct, at Oswaldtwistle Civic Theatre in September. Alan, who is a sound engineer, has only just returned from doing a job in Albania. He gets around quite a bit and has recently been off to Greece and Spain as well as this most backward of all the Balkan states.

Anyway, my wife is delighted. It's been something she's been after for ages.

Monday 9 August 2010


Well, the third and final episode of the first series of the BBC's new, present day version of the Holmes saga was aired last night. Though the overall standard has been remarkably high, with some neat plot twists, plenty of atmosphere and some brilliant acting, I must admit the final minutes left me less than overwhelmed. The long awaited appearance of Moriarty finally happened, and what a disappointing, over-wordy, overly dramatic (or melodramatic) piece this was! Its implausability overshadowed everything else. The posturing of all the people taking part in it was particularly bad, turning what should have been a cliffhanger for the next series into little more than an implausable farce. Moriarty - the arch enemy of Holmes and the world's greatest criminal mastermind - was reduced to someone who would have looked over the top as The Master in Doctor Who. And where in the name of reality where all those snipers who had laser sights dotted all over Holmes and Watson? There must have been at least six of them - a whole crowd! And what criminal mastermind would have delayed one second in having both Holmes and Watson killed when he had the chance? The final minutes just didn't make sense and were a poor ending in what till then had been a superb episode.
I hope there is a second series, though. But one in which these faults are rectified in some way, if that is possible. I still think the BBC's choice of Moriarty and the way in which he was portrayed were big mistakes, letting the series down. Casting till then had been first rate.

Saturday 7 August 2010

The Melancholy Haunting of Nicholas Parkes

Some time ago when Chris Barker was still on speaking terms with me - or as near to that as you can get on the internet, as we have never met face to face - he emailed me a copy of this long short story. For various reasons I never got round to reading it, even after I discovered it was to be included in his collection, Tenebrous Tales, published by ex-occidente press.

On an impulse, though, I decided a couple of days ago to read it.

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised to find what a well written, fascinating story this is, with at least one scene which is efficiently and effectively creepy in a true Jamesian fashion. Based largely on the true life story of Nick Drake, Nicholas Parkes' life, which ended with suicide in the mid seventies, is looked back on in retrospect by his present day obsessive fan, who becomes increasingly enthralled by the dead singer-song writer's spirit. The story moves at a leisurely pace, but is so well written and full of such well portrayed scenes, that I found myself engrossed by it, complete with a very satisfying conclusion.

If the other stories in Tenebrous Tales are up to this standard, then it will be an excellent collection. Unfortunately, because so many people have been turned against Mr Barker by his online persona, it is all too likely far fewer people will read this book than should. Perhaps time will eventually prove in Chris Barker's favour, though, and when today's disputes and antagonisms have been long forgotten, the stories won't.

Thursday 5 August 2010


Watched Zombieland, starring Woody Harrelson, on DVD tonight. I was a bit dubious about this as it was billed as America's answer to Shaun of the Dead, which is quite a challenge. In my view, though, it succeeded to a startling degree, even though Harrelson does seem to be getting uglier as he gets older - though at the same time he also seems to be getting more character - a long way on from his days in Cheers!

I liked the wacky humour of the running commentary from computer geek Jesse Eisenberg, who has his own set of rules for surviving in a world dominated by the living dead. Harrelson, on the other hand, is determined to kill as many zombies as he can in his search for the world's last Twinkies. Complete with a guest appearance by Bill Murray playing himself, and a pair of sisters who live off their wits and their ability to double cross and con anyone, this is a far cry from Dawn of the Dead, even though it does have its own fair share of gore!

It's quite a bit different to most other zombie films, but doesn't cheat on its premise even though it is a comedy and succeeds in making the end of the world look remarkably real.

September Issue of Prism

Started work last night on the next issue of Prism. Everything's working out well so far, with quite a few of the contributions in for it, including the graphics reviews, Ramsey's Rant and the Chairman's Talk. Unfortunately, it looks like we won't be having Mark Morris's piece this time. He's on holiday next week and must have forgotten about the schedule. Must remember to remind him next time well in advance. I do have John Probert's - that came weeks and weeks ago. He's obviously as keen as mustard at the moment.

It's hard to remember how much of a struggle the first issue was in March this year. Having my own template for the bulletin now, which I'm tweaking to add the odd improvement, does make doing it incredibly easy.

I'm hoping Prism is back from the printers and been distributed to BFS members before Fantasycon. That would be good. In actual fact, that's as it should be, since the convention isn't till the end of September!

Tuesday 3 August 2010


Ex-Occidente is a small press company operating from Romania. Quentin S. Crisp, who had a book due out from them, has just announced on his blog that he is severing all links with them. Quentin S. Crisp

My own involvement with Ex-Occidente goes back a couple of years when Dan Ghetu, its owner, emailed me out of the blue with the offer to publish Lurkers in the Abyss rather than Midnight House. As I had not fallen out with John Pelan, who runs Midnight House - nor have I since - and was quite willing to wait till Midnight House was in a position to publish my collection, I turned this offer down, but did propose a second collection made up of other, more recent stories. Initially Dan Ghetu was enthusiastic about this idea and asked me to email them to him, which I did. After that silence. Even when I emailed him a month or so later there was still no reply. Finally I emailed that I assumed his silence meant that the offer had been withdrawn. Still no reply. I understand that this silent treatment is not unusual from him - and not only for writers, but frequently purchasers of his books still awaiting their delivery months after they were due.

So, all in all, from my own personal experience, I have not been overly impressed by Ex-Occidente, even though I have bought one of their books by Reggie Oliver, Madder Mysteries.

George and Glenda

Not done much writing for the past few days but that doesn't mean I haven't been active. I've actually stopped to give myself some time to think over the next developments in a couple of projects I've been working on, in particular Lucilla and George and Glenda. The latter is almost finished now. It just needs the climax working out. The main idea for this came to me, strangely enough, at four this morning when I was lying in bed, unable to get back to sleep again. It's a good twist which puts two of the characters who are mutually hostile in great danger with a massive problem to solve.  Should work. Hopefully I can have this sorted in a few weeks, then the novel will be finished. This is different to most of what I have worked on before as it isn't horror as such, with no supernatural elements in it, but a crime novel.

Sunday 1 August 2010